ladies at the corner…

a woman sits at the corner of Chinamano Avenue and Third Street,
she sits on an old paint can, her back hunched,
the skin on her face is weathered, but skillfully caked in make up,
she could be in her fifties, or maybe her sixties,
sometimes she is sober,

she’s always wrapped up, thick winter socks, striped this time,
dirty overcoat with just the slightest hints of a skirt peaking out,
the hookers on her side of the street dress rather modestly,
maybe she inspires them,
a niche for the modest hooker perhaps,

she sells loose cigarettes, boiled sweets and one dollar airtime,
decent destination to get some stale air,
i walk past two hookers and get to her upturned box,
they don’t notice me,
leaning into a window, negotiating terms,

i don’t want anything but i buy five mints anyway,
she’s packing up and asks me to help her,
it’s a tired voice that scratches out of her,
tired of life,
we pick up her boxes and stock in one go,

it’s midmorning on a sunday so I ask her why the rush,
chechi muna fourth,
well, it is a sunday,
my people love white Jesus,
we deposit the boxes with a complex guard and i turn back,

i walk back past the two hookers,
ko ndeipi, she balances cautiously on one leg,
playfully tugging at the tiny skirt that’s not covering her ass,
ndeipi sister, respectful, always,
ko huya ka tikwirane,

in retrospect it was a fitting proposal,
but it caught me off kilter and i grinned,
mistake,
all guts, she steps forward and places her hand on my forearm,
mock restraint,

huya kani tiite,

mira kani…,

i must say though, if you’ll let me,
her hand is delightfully delicate,
i expected callouses of a rough life perhaps,
maybe,
a car stops and her partner calls her over…

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Coltrane in the Avenues (Part 3)

Titina finishes her beer and then asks what I have in the fridge. “No beers. Do you want whisky instead?” I say this, ever the good host. Boy did she flip! Weed makes some paranoid and others sleepy but boy did this joint make her flip all of a sudden!
“You KNOW I don’t drink whisky. I’ve TOLD you this before!” These words came out of her in short bursts.
I feel really bad. This reminds me of way back in my twenties. Blokes know what I’m talking about. The second, third, fourth time you’re with a girl and you’re asking her all these questions to get to know her better and stuff. And she keeps saying, “I told you this already at that party that night, don’t you remember? Were you drunk?” And you’re now afraid to ask anything more so there’s weird silence because you really don’t know. And sometimes she’s just fucking with you because, well, she can, and you actually haven’t already asked her that question … and that’s just how girls are sometimes.
Sex is not happening tonight. The mood is gone. The sex slipped through the cracks between her silly tantrum and my pride. I mean, she’s standing there and she knows what the deal is. Throwing a little test at me. So she starts a little fight thing just to get the tension up and she does it so that I’m somewhat in the wrong and I have to suck up to her. I hated tests in school and I’m sure as potholes not going to take one in my own damn flat. Not just to get laid, at any rate. I can be such a prick at times.
Resolution fades out and I reach for a Mapfumo LP. I’m not sure which one it is but it is one of those with his portrait and the flying dreadlocks and the red, gold and green bands. I like the old function on the old turntables. You could stack ten records, and at the end of each record, the next one would drop in turn. The needle arm moved out of the way automatically of course. This is an old turntable and that function probably still does work. Only issue is that when four or more records are now rotating, the records start getting a bit wobbly, like wavy and stuff, and the music also starts to sound a bit wobbly and then it’s not music any more. I’m not one for unnecessary fancy gimmicks; a lecturer I had the one time, when I still dabbled in education and stuff, he said, “If it’s not there it can’t break”; well this IS there, but I’m not going to use it. I remove the old, slide the new down the spindle, and drop the needle on the record. Chamunorwa slams in and in that moment, I realize that Thomas Mapfumo is the Thomas Mapfumo of our time. The opening guitar licks jump in with a revolutionary bravado and then step aside for the Mbira. The Mbira stomps in purposefully yet with a haunting refrain – stubborn guitar strings echoing in the distance. Hosho an unashamed third wheel – smirk on its face like a whore at her wedding. The lead guitar shoulders its way back to the front and starts an earnest dialogue with Mukanya’s pleas.
I look at Titina, she’s done with looking through the books and her fascination with the LPs in the crates. I know she wants me to start something. Apologize or make amends for that silly whisky thing. She’s lying on the bed, on her back, with her eyes closed and her feet still on the floor. I shall not fall to temptation. She doesn’t react throughout Chamunorwa and this gets me thinking she might have gone deaf from lack of alcohol. I don’t know how I expected her to react. I expected SOMETHING. Some acknowledgement, like “Fuck! Who IS this!?” or maybe a “Good grief, this is really good” or at the very least, you know, she could have taken a glance at the cover or the spinning record. Alas. Secretly I hope she passes out from the weed. Sleeping would suit me fine tonight. I’m like this after a night out. Sometimes I get wound up from all the legal and definitely the illegal substances swimming and floating around inside me. At times so hard I start going through the dark parts of my phone contacts. Other times, I just feel like coming back home and playing my records while having debates in my mind. For example I sometimes pretend I’m Aime Cesaire and I’m slamming down all the colonial writers and their nonsense about uncivilized savages and whatnot. Tonight, I’ve had strong notions of the former and tugging hints of the latter. Neither shall prosper. I walk over to the turntable and lift the needle to repeat Chamunorwa.

Coltrane in the Avenues (Part 2)

“Wake up Tina”, I say it low and with this deep voice, to sound sexy with. It’s too low; she’s passed out with a castle can on her lap and not about to hear my sexiness. Then I shake her, on the shoulder of course, because I’m not pervy or anything, tonight. She comes to and then we make a fumbling and stumbling exit from the car. My crummy little place (I lied earlier about it being snazzy and stuff – it’s cool though) is on the first floor. Two quick turns and a short flight of stairs and we’ll be on my floor. Only problem is the five doors we have to walk past to get to my door. I‘ll tell you what the issue is here. Patience, my people. There is a tenant in the flat two doors from mine. Yes. A girl. Pretty. We have … well, had relations … of sorts … and so she is a bit bitchy whenever I bring a girl up to my cave. We had an agreement, I thought we had, we didn’t. So crazy when a girl just decides you’re now in a bleeding relationship and stuff and the whole time I’m just in it for a spot of fun. Girls. They’re nice and all, I mean, I totally love them, oh but the way things just go from here to there. A guy can’t walk up to the cashier to pay for a pack of cigarettes and then be asked to fill out a loan for a damn mortgage … that’s how I feel about these girls.
There is no drama tonight though. I’m not in the mood for that. One never is … as you can imagine. I tip-toe past the tokoloshe’s flat. Titina is sportingly quiet too. She could be tired or just in a bit of a slump. I’ll re-ignite her soon enough though, of this I am sure. I have a good strain of cannabis indica. Not to be confused with the horrible stuff which makes you either sleepy, or worse, anxious and paranoid and hungry for things resembling food. Jah Para is my guy; which is to say that there is a guy who goes by this name and whenever I want to purchase some crushed marijuana for non-medicinal use, he is the person to whom I make a phone call, and, pay for and pick up, my narcotics from. So Jah Para is my guy.
I learnt, early on in my sordid descent into adulthood, that on arrival in a land, foreign or otherwise, two things must be located without avoidable delay: the location of cheap lodgings and an agreeable woman to share them with, and, at the same level of imminence, a guy. I have had delightful times from following this imperative. There have also been a few mishaps but they have made for good stories – after the wounds healed. I shall tell you about some incidents at some time. One singular story happened in Amaveni Township, involved a wench called MaZambia, lots of lion lager (yuck, I know) and a brush with the filthy arm of the law.
When I walk into my snazzy little flat with Titina, I become Chamu and proceed to roll a big fat joint with unwavering conviction and intense focus.
My circumstances considerably improved and yet my sensibilities heightened, I light. I have long since stopped putting in that little twist at the business end of a joint. It lights with ease. Chamu within me looks around and takes in the more amenable lodgings – I in turn, tune in to my awakened thoughts. The ideas within me. At base, the place is a book and vinyl record collection with living quarters attached to it. Conveniences, a bathroom and a kitchen, also a bed – all accompaniments to the two or so thousand books lining the improvised shelves. Titina closes her eyes while drawing in a deep drag – when she opens her eyes again she scans over the bound literature and picks up a well-thumbed copy of Black Skin, White Masks. I cringe slightly. Tonight is not the night to be defending my blackness.
“This guy is nuts. I can’t understand what the hell he’s saying.” She says this with a fair amount of earnestness. I almost take her seriously. “I suffered through this book in school.”
“It’s not him. What he’s saying is simple enough to understand; I think it’s just shitty translation.” I can really say stuff to charm a girl when I’m in the mood for it.
“Yeah, but Metamorphosis is also translated but it’s easy to read … and it’s a classic.” She retorts with a little pout.
“Yeah, but that book is shit. I don’t understand what the fuss is about it. See now that’s the opposite, a case of decent translation of a shit book.” I’m really getting stuck in here.
“Well I’ve read it in Russian and it’s a beautiful bit of writing.” She spits an end to THAT debate.
Any case, I grab the joint from her and decide to flip a record onto the turntable. The turntable is a sure panty dropper. Have a CD player, or worse, a cassette deck, and my friend, you will be spooning pillows instead ofa nubile lass. But a turntable; those wooden jobs they used to do up to the eighties, Tempest and such; have one of those in your cave and you’ll be hiring security to keep pretty girls away. Place a record on a turntable and sex can happen quite swiftly in that gap between curiosity and intrigue. A Love Supreme – Side A. She carries on going through the books on the shelves and mumbling intelligent nothings and unrequested book reviews.

Coltrane fires off the opening salvo on Acknowledgement and I start playing my air sax. Happens every time. Can’t help myself. Titina though; she’s still swooping down and getting back up again. Bending in and turning her head to the side to read a title and then turning the other way to read another. I really must apologize to her. The way these books are stacked. It’s my fault. It really is. And if she slips a disc from all this twisting and turning I really would find it hard to forgive myself. I would, soon enough, but I would find it hard to – is what I’m saying.
Acknowledgement is quite laid back. It doesn’t go all Coltrane like Resolution does, if you must know. I could listen to the first part of A Love Supreme and whistle along and play my air sax and just carry on doing whatever I was doing. Casually. But, if Resolution comes on, I mean, and it’s not just dude’s sax. But also the keys on that joint! My God! I didn’t know who McCoy Tyner was before I heard that piano. I mean, ok, I knew who he was, I had seen him and heard him on a few other Trane jams, BUT, when I HEARD him on Resolution, Good Lord! Praise God Almighty! Which is all to say I get quite crazy when this tune starts playing. When I’m alone in my crummy place and I flip the disc and start head-banging and stuff that’s all cool; but now I have to strain to contain myself when I play it with a girl, oh mercy, it’s so hard!

“I said, I like this book!” She is waving my tatty copy of Moby Dick about. She persists. I ignore. She persists.
“Have you read this book!?” she screams and I can’t take it anymore. I feel like replying her like that goddamn Forrester guy that Sean Connery plays in Finding Forrester. I feel like answering, “No, I haven’t read it. I just keep all these books here to impress all the visitors I get.” Instead, what I say to Titina is, “Yeah, I love it, it’s one of my favourite books.” And it really is.
See, I’m rather partial to literature by Americans. It’s not a conscious thing or anything. Hollywood hasn’t played that one on me. Nope. I just did a quick top five and realized it was all Hemingway, Heller, Lee, Steinbeck and Melville. In no particular order of course. And then she says THE most irreverent thing – one of, let me say – this is what she says, “I totally love this book about the whale – he’s my favourite character.”
Now, after that kid with the swollen tummy and the buzzing fly, my second worst character in the 21st century is that sect of humans who refer to Moby Dick as “that book about a whale”. I guess, you know, you can make any book be about whatever you want it to mean to you or whatever –but… to add the actual whale as a favourite character. Bulkington would love to have a brief word with all these people. Good old Bulkington, now there’s a fellow if ever there was one! Also, the buzzing fly might as well be the favourite character in the Donor burlesque on these shores.

And all this right in the middle of A Love Supreme.

Coltrane in the Avenues (Part 1)

Whenever I find myself driving through the Avenues after dark, I tend to flash my lights at the hookers. Catch an eyeful, if you know what I mean. It’s a pervy habit and I really must stop it sometime. I would have tonight, and I would have told Titina some yarn about showing her something really cool or whatever, in case you were wondering how I would have pulled it off. I would have made it seem like it’s just some fat joke but actually I would just be getting a big old pervy kick. I really must stop. Chamu knocks some sense into me. Really has me thinking about stuff before I do it. Get’s me thinking. The bugger. So I keep my lights on low beam as we weave our way to the corner of 3rd and Baines.
The other thing I like to do, and I really get a rush from this, is to drive up and turn past the old State House and take a mean old look at the guards there. God it gives me such a bloody rush! See, they block up the whole road running past the State House and they have all these spikes and drums and things all in the road. They even have a set of flashing amber lights blinking on and off right in the middle of the road just in case you don’t see the damn spikes and drums. And so you drive up the road until you get to the where the drums are and then you have to turn left and carry on down that road, past the end of the State House, to where the hookers can start flashing you and stuff. I swear the guards at the old State House are such a riot. Real serious fellows. You can hardly see them when you drive up. And then when you least expect it they suddenly appear and you see them holding their crazy rifles and standing there in their fatigues and helmets and boots and whatnot. They’ll put a bullet in you real quick if you do anything stupid like stall your car or fart too loud. They really will. Such a crazy bunch. Such a heady rush.
I mean, these boys, because that’s what they really are these guards, they can get quite mad at times. I’m such a risk-taker, is what I am, when I take chances with these blokes. I was driving past this guarded place the one day. Traffic lights were working that day, that time, and so I was at that corner waiting for the light to go green and all. Guess what happens. Two guards standing at the corner. Red eyes. Smoked out on military grade cannabis sativa – or a strain thereof. Eyes with an orange tint – matching their presidential guard berets. These two boys are standing there watching the traffic and having a soldierly chat and then the one guard walks off the curb and starts talking to the lady in the car next to mine. I’m saying, the lady was in the lane next to the curb and this soldier boy has his rifle slung over, bullet-end pointing at this poor lady’s passenger-side window. You don’t hear me. I’m also saying that this unfortunate lady had a child strapped into a car seat in that same window that the business end of the rifle was pointed at. So soldier boy saw the open window, noticed the rather decent-looking driver and decided to make his manly advances of courtship. Hand on his rifle and he was chatting away, dropping one-liners like Tehn Diamond on that rap stage. Expecting a quick response like the crowd at Tocky Vibes’ concert. On my honour, the sticky remnants of it, the lady was shaken. I guess soldier dude felt his lines were hitting home in solid fashion. He kept on and moved a bit closer. Our lady went from shaken, to stirred, then terrified. I couldn’t see her lips moving of course, but I imagine she went from frightened gasps to frozen stares. Bayonet almost sticking through the little child’s window. I swear to Thor I was going to get out of the car and stomp over to that toy soldier and tell him exactly what’s what! Standing there gleefully thinking he has frozen a pretty girl into stunned silence with his wit and yet his bleeding rifle is almost in her poor baby’s left nostril. I swear I was. I really do. I didn’t though. The traffic light turned green real quick and then I had to drive off, if you really must know why I didn’t.
Oh boy, these wanky guards. On a good day they’ll be calling drunken boys over from the entrance to the Keg & Wench and forcing the poor sods to do a spot of push ups in the dirt. Urgh man. I could tell you more stories about these damn blokes. I really could, and I know some good ones. I won’t though. Maybe another time when I’m up to it. I’m snooty like that sometimes. Oh, and the crazy bit, no one lives in the goddamn place anymore. I’m not in the mood for a spot of AK47-inspired exercise tonight, so we just drive on home.
When we get to the gate at my apartment block, the guard is asleep, as usual. Real cosy job he has. He’s a really cool bloke though. The sound of the engine wakes him up soon enough and he’s squinting through the gate in no time. I like him because he’s not the type of guard that you have to speak to in high English and be all snobbish for him to respect you. I hate those guys. He is one of those guys who come to town from some growth point out in the sticks and is just forever grateful that he has a job and an income. So he recognizes me and then he pulls open the gate and waves sleepily. The cool bugger. He’s also not the type of guard that is always asking for a dollar all the time.

The crazy thing is that it’s still only a short while before ten o’clock. So much has happened and so quickly that I had this crazy notion that it was well past midnight. I really must drink less. I must also start collecting vintage Italian supercars. I’ll start tomorrow.
My complex has 32 units and on any given day two or three will have loud music playing through until close on midnight and sometimes well past. It’s not so bad, the sound doesn’t really carry, and, if you have your own music playing then it’s not so bad. Good old Avenues.

Tete nights…

Nights are balmy in Tete,
I could live here,
a life I gave up feels alluring,
simplicity,
singles quarters, two fellows sharing a 550ml Manica cerveja,
two girls, chatting in Portuguese,
sauntering in with their hips showing through their capulana,
a warm wind blows through the doorway and the curtain billows in,
life can be sweet, if one chooses,
she drifts into my mind and in that moment I want her,
what I feel for her,
it lies in that deviant place between what I desire and how she gives it…

the catch in the night…

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I knew a girl once,
Not any more,
Well, not in the way I used to,
But when I did,
She would often tell me that I have a type,
A type of woman I like,
Which I would deny of course,
She would say this in that way that women say things,
You just feel you’re walking into something,
So you just object,
Even when the objection itself feels like the object of the statement,
And so she told me I like them young, arty and fit, and I denied all of this,
Until yesterday I was talking to this one girl late into the night and she was not so bad when she smiled,
She was telling me about my writing style,
I don’t know what the fuck that is but it was a warm night with a slight chance of sex so I kept the conversation flowing,
The wine was also good, and the music not so bad,
She was telling me about voice and style and I was just like “yeah, yeah” and nodding and stuff and all the while trying to get a good view of her ass with just the right amount of obvious,
I don’t know what a writing voice … or style is, the fuck if I care,
But I can remember the moment I decided to write a work of fiction, it was after reading The Catcher in the Rye, and so I’m back at the source,
I’m at a crossroads in this little story I’ve been working on and I need literary distraction, I read the opening paragraph of JD Salinger’s classic and I’ve been reset, today shall be a good day,

Oh and yes … she is young, arty and a fitness junkie.

Prelude to a kiss…

We’re listening to the Isley brothers,
It’s an early 2000’s joint,
Pleading Ronald Isley vocals laced with Ernie’s electric strings,
So we’re sitting here, on my bed, talking,
Getting to know each other, more,
Listening to “Contagious”,
And I have this bottle of wine,
I haven’t been saving it or anything,
It’s just been there and I haven’t gotten round to popping it,
And then I met her and it wasn’t right off the bat, but, by the time we left my friend’s place I knew I wanted to be with her,
And so we talked and I got her number and I called her and we went for an evening run and showered and she came over to hang out or whatever,
I like her.

We’re drinking a two-year-old blend of Stellenbosch red and wondering how life turns out,
“Warm Summer Night” is playing and she looks beautiful in this light,
I’ve put out the overheads and the reading light is casting a warm glow on her face,
She is lovely,
I want her but not yet,
I’m looking at her and she’s nervous and pensive and she has a deep seductive voice,
She doesn’t talk much but when she does I listen and it’s captive,
Her voice,
I want to listen to it and I don’t want her to leave.

I break out the wine because it’s been there,
I haven’t been keeping it or saving it or anything,
And I think I need to pour it because if I don’t then it becomes that I’m saving it and then it just keeps and I never open it,
I wanted to open it a few weeks ago but the wine wasn’t ready to come out yet,
Not then,
And now I’m here and she looks into my eyes and I pour her another glass,
Funny how she goes, this life, this love,
One moment she’s here, the next, thar she blows in the wind.

I kiss her to Ernie’s strings…